How a Shift in Perspective Is Helping Me Navigate Chronic Illness
If you've got a chronic illness and are anything like me, on most days you probably feel like you are at war with your body.
After all, you likely experience symptoms every single day that make you uncomfortable, fatigued, and most definitely frustrated. Sick and tired of feeling sick and tired, am I right? After a few years of suffering from a somewhat undiagnosed chronic illness, I feel this same way.
And after these several years of feeling like I'm just fighting with my body to heal more quickly and get back to "normal," I have come to a realization that my symptoms -- those everyday physical reminders that I am sick -- and the work I'm putting in to heal, are actually something to be grateful for.
It has been this shift in perspective that has been really helpful in my healing journey, so I wanted to offer up some tips to help you do the same.
1. Your body has the wherewithal to know that it's not well. I know this sounds simple, but it truly is miraculous if you think about it. When we feel pain and discomfort, it's our body's way of alerting us to the fact that it is in danger and to get out of harm's way. If we didn't feel pain when we put our hand on a hot stove top, we could get a potentially limb- or life-threatening infection as a result of a third-degree burn. This holds true for other forms of pain and discomfort, even in the context of chronic illness. Remember that even on your worst days, your body is able to let you know that there is a battle to fight, and it's got your back. Which brings me to my second point…
2. Your symptoms are a manifestation of the battle your body is fighting for you. Symptoms are different for each person, but in general, the symptoms you experience is a signal that your body is fighting something. If you have chronic inflammation that manifests as digestive bloat, or muscular pain, or you are tired all the time, this is actually your body being tough as nails as it's fighting things that can compromise your immune system. Remember that your body is so much tougher than you know, and even though you are experiencing physical pain or discomfort, in reality your body is kicking ass in this battle for you. That doesn't mean you are wrong to feel bad about feeling bad -- of course you will! I just encourage you to remind yourself every now and then that your body really is on your side, not necessarily something you are fighting against.
3. You are doing enough. After feeling sick for so long, it can sometimes feel like you should be doing more to get better faster. The longer you feel sick, the less patience you can have for all of it. For example, even though I go to multiple doctor's appointments some weeks, take all my prescribed supplements, keep my stress level in check, exercise a healthy amount, eat a balanced diet, and ask for help when I need it, I sometimes feel like I should be doing more. But reminding yourself that you are doing everything you need to be doing in this moment will allow you to take some of the onus off you. The last thing you need on top of feeling sick is to feel guilty about not doing enough. You are exactly where you need to be, and are doing plenty. Try writing down a list of everything you've done in the last year to work toward your health. This should give you lots of examples of just how much you're actually doing to heal.
If you find yourself navigating the often-murky waters of chronic illness, it can be difficult to pull away enough to see the silver lining in your pain, but if you can implement a few of these perspective-shifts, I bet you'll start feeling more optimistic about your health in no time.
Wishing you healing, health, and happiness.